General Question

jlm11f's avatar

If you found out that you had a fatal disease, would you tell your loved ones?

Asked by jlm11f (12335 points ) June 25th, 2008

I know some people don’t like to tell because they think it will make their friends/relatives act differently in front of them. And some tell for obvious reasons (such as wanting to have the chance to say goodbye). I have always wondered which one I would choose if i was ever in the situation. What would you do and WHY?
Addition – I know i would WANT my friends/relatives to tell me if it was them, but is this really one of those things where you should put yourself in the audience’s shoes? (as opposed to the victim)

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35 Answers

arnbev959's avatar

I probably wouldn’t tell for a while. I’d need some time. Eventually though, yes.

jlm11f's avatar

@ pete – but how long would you wait? until the final days in the hospital? i didn’t mean to ask would you tell them RIGHT away.

marinelife's avatar

I have gone through this so I know which way I would choose.

At around the same time one of my best friends lost her sister suddenly in a car accident, my own sister was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The differences were amazing. My friend took her sister’s death very hard. She felt they had a lot of unfinished business. The last time they spoke, there was an argument. Her whole life sort of went off track. She made very different decisions that, from the outside looking in, were not the best and seemed like a grief reaction.

In contrast, everyone in my family made spending time with my sister a big priority in their lives including me. By the time she died, even though it was still very hard, I felt like we had left nothing unsaid. I felt comfortable that she knew how much she was loved. It was a great gift.

I would always tell and always want to be told.

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

I probably wouldn’t, even though I should I think that knowledge brings fear so over all I would just act a little different and make sure that I did everything I wanted to make sure I died happy.

iCeskate's avatar

I would tell so I could have my last moments amazing

Randy's avatar

I wouldn’t tell. No need to them to worry. On the other hand though, I would wanna be told.

arnbev959's avatar

@PnL: I’d wait until right before the symptoms started to show. I’d want to do one last thing with them, maybe take a trip somewhere, before the symptoms start interfering. But if I had 8 months, I’d wait until I had 4 months to tell.

PupnTaco's avatar

I’d tell everyone right away. They all would deserve to know.

jlm11f's avatar

I like the different answers. Makes it all the more interesting.

AstroChuck's avatar

I certainly wouldn’t feel right keeping news like this from my loved ones. Besides, I’d want to milk it for all it’s worth!

whatthefluther's avatar

I told my family immediately. I have a rare variation of a rare disease that is genetic but manifests in only a small percentage of those that carry the gene. Since, at that time, I was one of but two people in the world with my particular mutation, international researchers were anxious to study the DNA of my family and relatives and although all gave blood samples for that study, I don’t believe a single one took the option of being advised of their specific results by genetic counselors.

ebenezer's avatar

I don’t think I would tell unless someone asked, and then I would ask them to keep it to themselves. I don’t want to spend the last chapter of my life as a freak, charity, or someone that needs to be whispered around. If things got weird I might even have to leave and be around people who could treat me like a normal person. On a second note, I don’t have medical insurance, so if I were to be a money pit for the people I love, I certainly would keep a low profile until it was too obvious and “too late”.

jlm11f's avatar

@ ebenezer – but you would want your loved ones to tell you if they were the ones with the illness right?

AstroChuck's avatar

PnL, there isn’t something that you’re trying to tell us, is there? I certainly hope not.

jlm11f's avatar

that’s an interesting question chuckie: would you tell your fellow flutherers too?

and at the moment, i am healthy as can be. knock on wood

ebenezer's avatar

PnL- I like my loved ones to make decisions based on what they want, not on what I want. I would find a way to understand and appeciate a heavy decision such as this without weighing it down with my “needs and wants”. If we have something that needs resolving will it mean anything when it is forced by the urgency of death. Well, maybe, but it seems like a selfish demand for the living to put on the dying.

jlm11f's avatar

@ ebenezer – well said.

susanc's avatar

Are all of you pretty young, I wonder? I wonder if telling the people who love you that you’re heading into the home stretch is different when you’ve lived a big life already.

I’d never, never keep this a secret. People need time to finish their relationships. And tell stories. And learn.
It’s the chance of a lifetime to get stuff straight. You know
that secrets and lies in one generation trickle down into
the generations that follow? Poison.

ebenezer's avatar

susanc- I think you have a point. I ain’t that young, but I ain’t that old neither.

On second thought, is old age considered an unexpected fatal disease?

cheebdragon's avatar

My boyfriends brother didn’t tell anyone until the last month or so, but he wrote everyone letters and gave them to a friend to deliver on certain days…...I thought that was a really sweet thing to do, but sometimes I wonder if doing that would be painful for the person recieving the letter because of bringing up all the feelings again, and would it be like they died all over again?

Dog's avatar

Yeah- I would have to tell them so they would know why I quit work and was spending my retirement savings like there was no tomorrow!

flameboi's avatar

no i won’t, they don’t deserve to carry such pain because of me

ninjaxmarc's avatar

No, I wouldn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me.

Most would say they have the right to know because they are your loved ones.

You’ll know during my last days…..

Live your life like its your last day.
Life is precious.

chaosrob's avatar

Yes. Don’t lie to the people you love.

beast's avatar

I would really piss them off. A LOT. That way, when I die, they wouldn’t be as sad.

jlm11f's avatar

Thank you all for your answers. I am slightly surprised at the differences, though I don’t know why I should be since I myself am conflicted with what I would do. Even though I understand why some of you would prefer not telling, I think I would lean to telling them but at the same time also letting them know that I need them to act like nothing has changed so I can enjoy the little time I have left. Either way you think about this question, you seem selfish (for telling or not telling).

flameboi's avatar

@PnL
I don’t think is about being selfish or not, 4 example, I just can Imagine my mom if she finds out that I’m sick, I just pretend that I’m stressed and that’s it… she doesn’t have to know because I don’t want her to suffer, and all my family, if I’m going to leave, it has to be on my own terms

jlm11f's avatar

@flameboi – i meant that if you don’t tell, it can seem selfish in the sense that you are hiding the information because you don’t want someone else to suffer but you are making the decision FOR them. since many people on this board mentioned that they would want to know if it was one of their loved ones, i would imagine some of your loved ones would feel the same way. now of course as ebenezer pointed out, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks since its your life and you can decide on how you want to leave it. but the truth is once you leave, your loved ones are the one who have to live and suffer whatever consequences. so i don’t think i could make such a crucial decision just thinking about what i want and how i want others to feel (or not feel). I really doubt my answer makes any sense so I will stop now (if anyone gets what I am saying, please feel free to phrase it better lol)

susanc's avatar

@ebenezer, no, of course old age isn’t an unexpected fatal disease. It’s an expected
fatal disease. But my point about asking if people were young in borne out in the following posts, from people who truly believe that they should die in isolation in order
to spare a) the people who love them from sorrow (like that’s going to work for long) and
b) themselves from having to deal with other people’s feelings. Those sound like young
people’s agendas to me. Not wrong, but inexperienced.
@flameboi, my true friend, who has sent me such compassionate comments on my
own recent loss, how can you be so caring and still say everything should be on “your own terms”? I agree with you that a person’s death should be on their own terms to whatever extent possible; but no one lives without deep connectedness with other people’s bodies and souls. I don’t really believe you’re entitled to own your own death, any more than any of us are entitled to believe our lives are ours and ours alone. You have a piece of my heart,
I have a piece of yours.
You owe me.
I owe you.

susanc's avatar

@everyone: my nice husband died about six weeks ago. He had about 8 months between diagnosis (lung cancer; stop smoking right now – I mean it) and death. It was
the best 8 months we ever had together in spite of the fear, pain, weakness, sorrow.
Because we were so vividly aware of everything. I wouldn’t have wanted him to
“protect” me from his love and his fear. Why would we be married if we couldn’t walk
this path together as far as we were able? I’m still married to him. He didn’t leave me
willingly. He had to go, but he didn’t separate himself from me before he was ripped from this life. I thank him for that.

marinelife's avatar

To those saying they would not share the news to spare their loved ones, I have this to say. I am not sure anyone has the right to make that decision for someone else solo. It is a lot like a cheater saying they can’t make up their mind and staying in relationship with a spouse while they “figure it out” without giving the spouse his or her own choice about whether they want to live with a cheater.

I would be more accepting of someone saying in their last months they did not want to be burdened with other people’s fears and expectations of death and on that score keeping it to themselves.

jlm11f's avatar

Wise words like always from Susanc and Marina. It’s always an honor to have you two comment on such questions.

@ susanc – I am sorry to hear about your husband. But the way you speak and talk about him, I feel like he is still there with you, helping you write such brilliant responses.

susanc's avatar

@PnL, I think you’re brilliant too (and we all know about Marina). But .. he’s not here.
It’s awful, but he had to go & he did go. I keep his love and… well, I do consult with him when
I can’t figure things out but .. well, it feels lonesome here without his useful mind so
I do try to think of what he would say…

and we made so many decisions using both brains, I suppose I still have his sense of things internalized

So maybe you’re right.

Wow. Huh. Thanks!!!

I’m posting this instead of sending a personal comment because it seems good for all jellies to know you can keep a lot of what you think you’ve lost. It’s
weird – (it is: weird) – but it’s real.

scamp's avatar

Much love to you susanc . You are a wonderful person.

PredatorGanazX's avatar

I will only tell my other half because in order to broadcast the whole lot will meant triggering their sympathy.

Never like to be symphatize by anyone before ever.

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